This almost 100 year old barn in Kelowna, BC has been transformed into a social center by 2 friends
Two longtime friends in Kelowna, BC have managed to transform a landmark building in the city of Southern Interior into a social hub that brings local residents together and celebrates its past, while one historian says the project is a fine example of adaptive Reuse of a heritage plot.
On Friday, teacher Gary Brucker and doctor Tim Kramer unveiled a new coffeehouse called the Milk Shed housed in the historic Surtees Milk Barn, a city-designated building where they opened Barn Owl Brewing in 2019.
Brucker said the coffeehouse was named for its former status as the barn’s cow milking corner and the new addition in Surtees is consistent with the brewery pub.
“They’re not twins, but they’re cousins — and there will be a deep connection to the past,” he said.
Kramer, who has lived at the Mission for more than three decades, said when the city announced its plan to redevelop Surtees Barn as a commercial building in 2016, he thought it would be a good idea to balance his passion for beers with heritage preservation connect.
Formerly owned by an English aristocrat
The barn and nearby family home, Surtees House, are located in Kelowna’s Mission District, about five miles south of downtown, and are named for English aristocrat Allen Surtees.
According to the City of Kelowna, before Surtees bought the house in 1919 and built the barn in 1927, the house served as a brothel for workers on the Kettle Valley Railway.
Okanagan historian Wayne Wilson says Surtees Barn was one of the most notable farm buildings in the mission area in the early 20th century.
The two-story, timber-rafted architecture had a large attic for hay storage and social gatherings, while the ground floor housed state-of-the-art cow-milking machinery.
The property passed to another family during World War II, but Surtees’ son, John Surtees, bought it back in the ’60s and converted the barn into an artist’s studio. His wife Ursula Surtees ran learning activities for school children in the barn in the 1980s.
After being sold to the city in 1993, the property fell into disrepair.
Kramer says he tried to recreate what the barn would have looked like in the 1920s by crafting amenities using reclaimed wood left over from the attic and reusing vintage furniture brought in from elsewhere.
“Everything we’ve done here is a historic thing,” he said.
Brucker says that by using chandeliers, old lamps and antique sofas, he wanted the loft to feel like a living room where people of all ages would feel welcome.
“We have live music here twice a week … Families will gather here and play games — it’s really a community-focused hangout where beer happens to be brewed,” he said.
Brucker adds that the taproom on the ground floor of the barn was designed to make visitors feel like they’re in an antique kitchen.
Wilson, a former Kelowna Museum curator who helped organize school programs in the barn with Ursula Surtees for years, says the pub owners are a good example of adaptive heritage repurposing.
“As for the exterior, it still has that look and feel,” he said. “You get a really good sense of what a barn would feel like in something that big.”
Family oriented local business
Mission District resident Sheila Sangare says she loves the brewery’s rustic ambience and wants to support local businesses like Barn Owl.
“It’s very important to me that I buy local and invest my money locally,” said Sangare.
Her sister, Shellie Kirschman, says she appreciates that the pub is family-oriented and caters to all types of customers.
“I’m not a drinker, so I come and drink water or Diet Coke, but that wasn’t a problem.”